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Bigredcoat’s Way Better Top 15 Games of the Decade

Posted by nfinit on November 26, 2009

So earlier this week, The Onion AV Club released their Top 15 Games of the Decade, which broke down thusly:

15. SSX 3 (EA Sports BIG, 2003)
14. The Sims (Electronic Arts, 2000)
13. Ninja Gaiden (Tecmo, 2004)
12. Braid (Microsoft Game Studios, 2008)
11. Advance Wars (Nintendo, 2001)
10. Left 4 Dead (Valve, 2008)
9. Final Fantasy XII (Square Enix, 2006)
8. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Rockstar Games, 2002)
7. Ico (Sony, 2001)
6. World Of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 2004)
5. Portal (Valve, 2007)
4. Rock Band (MTV Games/Electronic Arts, 2007)
3. Fallout 3 (Bethesda Softworks, 2008)
2. Katamari Damacy (Namco, 2004)
1. BioShock (2K Games, 2007)

Which isn’t a bad list, even if it does veer randomly between artsy high concept stuff (like Braid) and stuff that clearly exists only because of its importance and/or wild popularity (The Sims).  But as a guy who thinks about stuff like this way too much, I couldn’t help but notice some strange choices.  For instance, I don’t know why Ico is on the list when Shadow of the Colossus is sitting right there.  If they just had to put a JRPG on the list, why was it Final Fantasy XII?  I’m not even sure if XII was the best Final Fantasy of the decade, much less the best game of the decade of its particular genre.  World of Warcraft belongs there because of importance, but if that’s a defining criteria why is Rock Band on the list over the original Guitar Hero?  And is Vice City really the absolute apex of Rockstar’s art?  Furthermore why Portal over Orange Box?

“But Nfinit”, you may say, holding a hand over your eyes as you shield your gaze from my divine manliness, “what games would you have picked as the top 15 games of the decade, and more importantly, why?”  I’m glad you asked!  Also I can easily stretch this out into three updates and play Dragon Age instead of spending time coming up with things to write about.

(Note:  I’ve only had access to the PS3 for like eight months total and I have a blind seething rage for Nintendo.  Otherwise this will be perfectly fair and accurate.  Also this will be mainly console stuff, as the last relevant game my PC is capable of playing is Half-Life 2.)

15: F-Zero GX

I knew I wanted to put a sim racer in this list, but I also knew that if I did that I’d need to include a racing game that a normal person would want to play.  It was either this or Burnout 3, and F-Zero GX wins due to it’s excellent rival racer system and because Sega.  It’s probably the best arcade racer to appear over the past two console generations; and all the more legitimate as it actually was an arcade game at one point. Burnout is more chaotic fun and probably better for pick up and play, but the rubberbanding makes racing against the AI an exercise in futility.

14: Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Collectively Splinter Cell represents the only time the console industry got stealth gaming right, and Chaos Theory is the best (and least infuriating) of the lot.  This is also by far the best thing to ever come out of Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy properties; and if Ubisoft were smart they’d have used the break between this game and Splinter Cell: Conviction to re-release the Xbox 1 Splinter Cell games for modern consoles and remind everyone why Splinter Cell matters.  The Splinter Cell games are some of the few games to ever successfully convey a true sense of tension– Yeah, Sam is capable of getting himself out of a jam, but it’s far better not to get into that jam in the first place and the whole process of covering up your mistakes means you’re actually invested in being careful, and dare I say it– stealthy.  You’re a spy, not some sort of unstoppable force of nature who’s best off just wiping out the entire military installation on your way to the MacGuffin.

Chaos Theory also represents one of the very few times a western developer has managed to bring together the whole Hollywood-storyline-multiplayer-focus thing that has become de rigueur this console generation without forgetting to include a compelling and worthwhile single player component.  Despite Chaos Theory’s outstanding multiplayer modes you won’t feel cheated if you ignore multi and only play the “real” game.  Indeed, the two parts of the game are treated almost as equals.  This is something we probably won’t see very often ever again thanks to mounting game development costs forcing developers into focusing on one side or the other.

13: Persona 3 FES

I had to put one JRPG up here, and I figured it may as well be the only JRPG of the past ten years that I actually enjoyed playing.  That’s largely because Persona 3 took everything we knew about the JRPG genre and tossed them out the window.  The game isn’t based on some sort of high-magic version of pre-industrial Europe, for instance.  It’s based in and around a modern-day Japanese high school.  There’s only one real dungeon in the entire game and you’re only allowed in there maybe a third of the time you play, if you try to go in there too often you’ll get sick and screw up progress in the main part of P3 FES– which is a dating sim.  In a genre where Squeenix is constantly trying to out-epic itself in an orgy of overwrought angst, P3 FES brings us a story of a bunch of awkward high school kids trying to figure out the whole social network thing while fighting demons and Japan’s terrifying high school examination schedule.  If The World Ends With You is any indication, maybe the rest of the industry is taking Atlus’ cue.

12: Resident Evil 4

By this I mean the Good Version, not the muddied PS2 port or the muddied PS2 port with waggle that appeared on the Wii, I mean the original interpretation as it appeared on the Gamecube.  To say RE4 is the best Resident Evil game made is true, but also a little unfair to previous RE games.  It’s like saying Dogma is the best Kevin Smith movie.  Technically it’s true; but it’s also not in the same genre as anything else Kevin Smith ever did.  Resident Evil 4 is not survival horror, nor does it ever intend to be.  It’s simply one of the finest action games ever crafted and may well be the single best game to ever appear on the Gamecube.  With the departure of Shinji Mikami from Capcom it’s uncertain if we’ll ever see another Resident Evil game live up to RE4’s level of excellence– judging from Capcom’s desperate efforts to ape RE4 with Resident Evil 5, likely not.  This could be the last great RE game made until such time as Capcom finally reboots the series.

11:  Katamari Damacy

I don’t know if any game I’ve played before or sense has managed to exude the same feeling of unbound joy as the first Katamari game produced.  Producer Keita Takahashi blended everything together perfectly– the controls, the art style, the dialog, the music, the universe itself– to convey a singular, pure concept of a game that wanted to be played and to be experienced and enjoyed by as many people as possible.  Of course, Namco would take this pure, unfettered concept and attempt to make it into yet another stale franchise, with predictable results– but the first two Playstation 2 Katamari games remain true to thier core.  You start small, roll things up, become bigger, roll bigger things up, until eventually you’re carving great gouts out from the continental shelves.  And you can do that in mere minutes using nothing more than two thumbsticks and controls so simple they make later attempts such as the Wiimote feel like a contrivance.

The only thing keeping me from placing this higher is that there’s not a whole lot of actual game to be had in Katamari.  You can easily knock out the main portion of the game in an afternoon.  It’ll be a throughly enjoyable afternoon, but it’s over all too soon nonetheless.  Which is good, in it’s way– the first two Katamari games never had a chance to outstay their welcome.


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